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Copyright: LABKULTUR

Copyright: LABKULTUR

Copyright: LABKULTUR

Copyright: LABKULTUR

Copyright: LABKULTUR

Copyright: LABKULTUR

Art. Talk.

Dortmund’s pedestrian zone: A young woman walks along, dragging a shoe along behind her on a string. It is a repeat performance of an art event in Bonn in 1989, staged by Allan Kaprow, the father of the happening. Is Dortmund ready for it, 23 years later?

“Look at her!” people whisper and nudge each other. “Is she crazy?” But performance artist Dorothee Tesmer doesn’t look crazy at all, but rather in complete control of the situation. If she were pulling a crocodile along behind her, the effect could not be more elegant than the way she is now dragging a red lady’s shoe through the puddles. Now and then, if the shoe has suffered dreadfully and hurt itself, she ‘attends’ to it with a piece of sticking plaster. Ooohh!

Dorothee Tesmer works in the Dortmund U. Her performance is the prelude to the film series “Art.Talk.” which hopes to relieve Dortmund’s inhabitants of their inhibitions about visiting the Centre for Art and Creativity, as they have not warmed to it much so far. The aim is to lead art-shy citizens towards “an encounter with art” with subtle, endearing happenings and so make the U and its treasures attractive.

From museum to street

Tesmer’s game has a history and a specific motivation: Bonn, the somewhat sleepy but nevertheless wealthy former federal capital, seemed in 1989 to be a good place for the shoe-happening of performance artist Allan Kaprow. “Take A Shoe For A Walk” sounded more inviting and less dangerous than Lou Reed’s “Take A Walk On The Wild Side”, and Kaprow’s instruction to the performer to take care of the shoe was downright cosy. Kaprow’s shoe, looking much the worse for wear and patched up with plasters and bandages, ended up in a museum – so now, the idea was to be taken from the exhibition “Fluxus – Art For All” in the Ostwall Museum in the Dortmund U, back onto the street.

“We were Art”

The repeat performance of Kaprow’s happening fits the situation in Dortmund at the end of 2012 like a hand in a glove. The event counters the stressful atmosphere of Christmas shopping with a joke and a wink; the care ordered by Kaprow brings warmth to a city threatened by unemployment and poverty, as if to say: “Someone who looks after a shoe can’t be a bad person.” The reactions of passers-by show the quick-wittedness typical of Ruhr inhabitants and say a lot to culture bureaucrats and joyless art event organisers about the role of art in public spaces. Take art to the people, even if it is as playful as Kaprow’s happening, face them with it in their daily lives, and they will ask questions, make comments, think about it. Like the shopper from Wuppertal who, in the wet cold of a Dortmund winter, fell in love so much with a summer shoe that he took it – and its plasters, of course – home with him to the Bergisches Land, gave it the name “Frieda” and documented the stages of their journey together in photographs. Then the ladies chatting at the Christmas market get excited and join in, saying: “We were art!”

It wasn’t Kohl, it was Kaprow!

So it has been proven once again: It is not ‘Luxus’ (luxury), but the ‘F’ in front of it that changes the world. Give me an F! The humour and the underlying meaning of ‘Fluxus’ suit the Ruhr mentality perfectly. So the Fluxus collections shouldn’t be hoarded in a museum, but taken out onto the street! Such a move creates energy; it has an explosive power. A little naive shoe-happening in Bonn, you might think – but we don’t know everything that happened in 1989 as a result… (Peter Erik Hillenbach)

Further Information

Ein Projekt gefördert durch das Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen

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